Special to The Enterprise
The streets of Davis are littered with decorated minivans. From your back yard you can hear parents yelling quality advice like “go!” and “boot it!” Kids are openly discussing the country Turkmenistan.
It must be Memorial Day weekend. And in Davis, Memorial Day weekend means the AYSO World Cup soccer tournament.
For the 27th consecutive year, the 2013 Davis World Cup provided quality soccer, a competitive atmosphere and good sportsmanship from the more than 120 squads in the field.
The tournament began Friday with an opening ceremony at the Veterans’ Memorial Amphitheater.
Each team is assigned a country to represent when they register for the tournament, and the opening ceremony is the first chance they get to show off their true colors.
Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza hosted the event and, after a few opening remarks where he joked about thinking about coaching AYSO while attending City Council meetings, he introduced each team by name and country as they walked across the makeshift amphitheater stage.
Squads were encouraged to show their spirit throughout the tournament, so it was no surprise when a U10 girls team representing the Cape Verde Islands wore matching home-made shark hats to represent the dangers of the islands, as well as their forwards.
The kids then participated in a flag trivia game in which there were more than a few parents illegally gesturing the answers to their kids.
“Get with them, you know all the countries,” whispered one parent to her confused-looking husband.
All 130 girls and boys teams kicked off tournament play the following morning. Games started as early as 8 a.m. on Saturday, and the various U10 and U12 matchups featured participants who were full of energy despite the early hour.
Meanwhile the Davis U19 teams played to a bleary-eyed draw with some of the players clearly just minutes out of bed.
Whether games were played at the expansive grounds of Community Park, or to the tune of ice cream truck music at Walnut Park, there was constant action at each of the Cup’s four venues.
As the day wound down, and players prepared for the popular Keeper Wars competition, the grounds slowly began to empty and the groups of kids wearing matching out-of-town uniforms filled the local supermarkets and restaurants.
Sunday brought 70-degree weather, and a whole new docket of games, including the first elimination games of the tournament (playing Monday is not a guarantee for most teams).
At Nugget Fields, accusations rained down from Pacifica parents that the referee was unfairly helping the Davis team their sons were playing.
“We’re on their field, so it’s their ref,” one parent could be heard saying.
Errant shots consistently fly over the goals at Nugget — only Davis World Cup novices park directly behind the cage.
And as always, elimination games provided drama and the dreaded penalty shootout.
No matter who wins, a shootout always ends with one team joyously celebrating and the other hanging their heads.
The tournament whittled a few teams down by the night, some justly losing by 8-2 score-lines, others robbed by the crapshoot that is penalty kicks.
Monday is always the quietest day of the tournament, especially with the light rain that came this year.
More and more teams leave town and, though the championship games draw big crowds, the areas around the fields become sparse.
But one thing remains the same: referees getting yelled at by parents. After one such exchange, the ref fired back humorously:
“Hey!” the referee yelled to the parent. “You’ve got a ref uniform on, you know better!”
The U19 finals are usually the main events of the tournament, drawing hundreds to Yudin Field, especially when Davis teams make the championship contest.
These tense matches also showed some of the differences between teenage girls and boys. The girls’ contest was full of phrases like “thank you” and “sorry.” The boys’ final was full of phrases that cannot be printed here.
As night fell on the day, it fell on the tournament as well. Goals were locked away, minivans disappeared from sight, and soccer moms went back to being the loving and caring people they are in their everyday life. And exuberant winners and grateful losers headed home to become students once again.
But nearly everyone involved is certain of one thing — after another successful weekend, the Davis World Cup certainly will be back for a 28th edition next spring.
— Evan Ream is a freelance journalist based in Davis. Follow him on Twitter @EvanReam. For more Davis World Cup coverage, visit www.findingxavi.com.